by Marzia De Giuli
MILAN, Italy, May 12 (Xinhua) -- Italian experts say China's initiative of building a Silk Road economic belt and a 21st-century maritime Silk Road highlights its concept of peaceful development and will contribute to the win-win cooperation between China and Europe.
"The concepts relate to the idea of seeing China's rise as an opportunity for common development, with China's development contributing to the development of other countries," Simone Dossi, professor of international relations of East Asia at the Catholic University of Milan, told Xinhua in a recent interview.
Both the Silk Road economic belt and the 21st-century maritime Silk Road recall a positive historical memory of economic integration among nations, Dossi said, referring to the ancient Silk Road.
The ancient Silk Road represented a series of trade and cultural transmission routes that were central to cultural interaction through Asian regions connecting the West and East by linking traders, merchants, pilgrims, monks, soldiers, nomads and urban dwellers from China to the Mediterranean Sea during various periods of time.
In his view, the idea of a "maritime Silk Road" is primarily aimed at reassuring nations in Southeast Asia and in the Indian Ocean about China's intention of strengthening economic cooperation in the region.
On the other hand, Dossi added, the idea of a "Silk Road economic belt" draws a new picture for China's relations with its neighbors in Eurasia.
According to the professor, China's growing interest in Eastern Europe and the Middle East creates new opportunities for its interaction and collaboration with the European countries.
But this opportunity will become reality only if the European governments think and act strategically, Dossi said. "They have to fully understand China's new approach to the region, find out potential areas of common interest, and then interact with Beijing in a coordinated way."
In this respect, he added, EU institutions should play a crucial role as a safeguard in case of divergence among individual European countries.
Another important aim of this modern Silk Road is to accelerate and deepen the development of China's western areas including Chongqing, Tibet and Xinjiang, while promoting their stability, said Giovanni Andornino, professor of international relations of East Asia with the University of Turin.
"Over the past decade, the Chinese central government and richer coastal provinces have supported major investments in western China, which comprises a quarter of the population and almost half of the country's territory," Andornino said.
"It is strategic that western provinces can now function as an effective bridge between China's developed eastern coast and Central Asia," he said.
Andornino said the strategic reorganization of Central Asia in 2014 with the reconfiguration of the U.S. and NATO presence in Afghanistan and the closure of the Transit Center at Manas near the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek "provides an opportunity for China while requiring an assumption of responsibility to promote stability in this fragile region."
The fundamental enabling factor for China's growth and development in the past 30 years was "the pursuit of a moderate foreign policy in which the maintenance of stability in the international system, starting from the borders of China, was considered an essential interest of Beijing," he said, adding that the idea of the modern Silk Road in Central Asia has been created by the continuity with this approach.
"The bundle of infrastructures, flows and relations, both economic and cultural, destined to sprout along this path and flow into the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe, will be a factor in the development of all the actors involved, if interpreted in a shared and responsible way," Andornino said.